References may be last thing on your mind when you’re busy job searching or planning career change. But a few simple steps early on in your career planning can save you a lot stress later. Read this article to discover how to prevent last-minute job search stress.
A few years ago I had to travel at short notice for a family emergency. Relieved to have found a flight quickly, I arrived at the airport for check-in. I opened my passport at the photo page. Imagine my horror when I realized that, in my haste, I had picked up my spouse’s passport. I hadn’t taken the few seconds I needed to verify.
The same can happen with the references you need for a successful job search. Don’t leave it until it’s too late to get the best references you can.
Understand How References Fit Into Your Job Search
One way to think of references is as “second opinions.” Employers use references as a way of reducing the risk of making hiring mistakes. They ask the people you nominate to validate and expand on the information you provide. What people say may make or break your job search success.
Different employers have different ways of checking references. The process may be as informal as a quick personal phone call. Or it may be formal, such as a standardized questionnaire. Typically employers will ask about things like attendance, reliability, and performance. Some jobs require additional background checks.
Do you know the requirements for your industry and practices of prospective employers? If you are applying for an advertised position, you will often learn the details as part of the application instructions. If the information is not provided, it’s a good idea to ask.
Identify Potential Reference Providers
Once you’ve learned about the reference checking process, the second step is to identify the people to nominate. Review your professional network and make a list. Once you have your list of potential sources of reference, get in touch.
Ask their permission and find out their preferred current contact details. Don’t let out-of-date contact information make it difficult for prospective employers to complete reference checks.
Ask yourself what information you would need if you were nominated to give the reference. What has changed that your nominees may not know about? Think about what you can do to make it easy for them to support you. Provide updates about your career plans and goals.
If you are not connected on LinkedIn, this is a good time to invite them to connect.
Keep your Reference Providers Updated about Your Job Search
When you nominate someone to provide a reference for a specific position, don’t forget to let them know. Provide details about what’s most important for this particular role and this employer.
Do what you can to avoid a delayed response adversely affecting your job search success. By staying in communication, you can prevent many problems. For example, as employers rely more on automation, reference requests often arrive electronically. An email from a “stranger” with a link inside may look like spam and get deleted.
Once you get a new position, things can get very busy. But don’t neglect your supporters. Let them know your good news. Write a personal note of appreciation. Does your company send out announcements about new appointments? If so, send them a copy. By now you’ve invested time in reconnecting, make the most of it by planning to keep in touch.
Summary: How to Get the References you Need to Succeed in your Job Search
Job search can be stressful enough. Don’t add unnecessary stress by not considering who will provide the references your potential employers need until it’s too late. Even if it seems like reference checks have been a rubber-stamping exercise in previous job searches, don’t take this one for granted. Prepare for a successful job search by preparing your reference nominees to give you the best references they can.
Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 8, no. 2
About the Author
Jennifer Bradley, Ph.D. helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition.